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(Makes about 2 quarts)
Giardiniera (pronounced jar-din-AIR-a) is a crunchy mix of pickled vegetables which usually include cauliflower, carrots, and peppers. The Italian word giardiniera refers to a gardener. Giardiniera is also called sotto aceti, which means under vinegar, a common term for pickled foods. The vegetables are first brined and then marinated in a zesty dressing. It is typically eaten as part of an antipasto platter but is also wonderful on Italian sub sandwiches, Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, French dips, pastas, or even as a pizza topping. Milder varieties of giardiniera are used for the olive salad in the classic Muffuletta sandwich. The mix of ingredients can be adjusted to your tastes; if you love carrots, add more or introduce zucchini, eggplant, onions or green beans. If you want it extra-spicy, add more serranos or red pepper flakes. Chop the vegetables uniformly; mincing makes a great relish for a sandwich or a hot dog, while larger pieces are better for antipasto or a side dish.
4 to 8 serrano chiles, seeds removed and thinly sliced 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets 1/2 cup salt 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds 6-8 whole black peppercorns 1 cup white vinegar 1 cup olive oil
Combine the chiles, peppers, celery, carrots, and cauliflower in a large ceramic or glass bowl. Add the salt and use your hands to blend it into the vegetable mixture. Add enough water to cover the vegetables. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 12 hours or overnight.
Drain the vegetables; rinse them thoroughly under cold running water to remove the salt. Rinse out the bowl and add the remaining ingredients to it. Whisk the ingredients to blend. Return the drained vegetables to the bowl. Use you hands to blend the vegetables with the seasoning mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days before serving. Stir the mixture once or twice during that time. The mixture may also be packed into sterilized jars and refrigerated for longer storage.